yoga FROM LAW TO

Suc­cess­ful ad­vo­cate Nomzamo Mji chose to swap her court­room cloak for the mat and white clothes which are syn­ony­mous with Kun­dalini yo­gis

Destiny - - Entrepreneur - BY Wendy Jas­son da Costa

In 2013, Mji, her sis­ter No­sizwe and their mother packed their bags and headed to Rishikesh in In­dia, where they signed up for a Hatha yoga teacher’s train­ing course. The ex­pe­ri­ence brought them closer to­gether and also pro­vided a plat­form for Mji’s new life as a yo­gapreneur. However, the tran­si­tion in her life had al­ready started long be­fore then. Mji, whose fam­ily is orig­i­nally from Cler­mont in Kwa Zulu-Natal, stud­ied law at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. At the age of 28, she had a bur­geon­ing ca­reer as an ad­vo­cate and was ex­posed to a range of cases many in her field en­vied, like hav­ing re­ported judg­ments and ap­pear­ing in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. But there was a down­side to all the suc­cess: stress – and a lot of it. She says she felt as if her iden­tity had be­come com­pletely en­meshed in her ca­reer. “I did sub­stan­tive work, but be­cause my cop­ing mech­a­nisms weren’t that great, my health suf­fered.” She was also di­ag­nosed with sar­coido­sis, a po­ten­tially fa­tal in­flam­ma­tory dis­ease which can af­fect mul­ti­ple or­gans. In Mji’s case, it af­fected her eyes – and for some­one who’d always been healthy, this was a ma­jor blow. “I felt let down by my body – and yoga fa­cil­i­tated the new con­ver­sa­tion I had to have with it,” she ex­plains.

Hit­ting the yoga mat also gave her the space to process the many things hap­pen­ing in her life. Look­ing at her col­leagues, Mji re­alised that her le­gal work­load could only get heav­ier as her ca­reer pro­gressed. Yoga be­came a form of self-ther­apy and soon, she’d per­suaded No­sizwe to part­ner with her in open­ing a stu­dio of their own.

The sis­ters re­turned to their na­tive Dur­ban, where they opened The Tool­box in a serene gar­den set­ting in Peter Mok­aba Rd in Mus­grave. Apart from yoga, it also has fa­cil­i­ties for work­shops. They spent R180 000 on set­ting up the busi­ness, the bulk of which went on equip­ping and mod­i­fy­ing the space in which they op­er­ate. They cur­rently of­fer a range of classes through­out the week, em­ploy sev­eral teach­ers and aim to train more of them in the com­ing years.

Over the past two years, they’ve fo­cused on build­ing their brand and partnerships, while ex­pand­ing their of­fer­ings and “pre­par­ing to be more fo­cused on busi­ness and money”, says Mji. From the start, the en­tire busi­ness model has been de­vel­op­ing or­gan­i­cally, but they’re now com­mit­ted to put­ting more solid sys­tems in place.

Hav­ing her sis­ter as a busi­ness part­ner has been a hugely re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Mji be­cause they com­ple­ment each other well and share the same val­ues. Their busi­ness ven­tures also in­clude a be­spoke bead­ing com­pany known as Hearts Lead the Way, where they “make bead dreams come true” in ev­ery­thing from shoes to bridal jew­ellery and un­usual gar­ments. What’s more, they use the ser­vices of many town­ship and ru­ral women who might oth­er­wise have been un­em­ployed. In ad­di­tion, they’re teach­ing bead­ers how to mar­ket their work and price it fairly, so that they’re not ex­ploited.

It seems that Mji, who calls her­self a “re­cov­er­ing lawyer”, is destined for a life of chang­ing per­cep­tions and fight­ing for hu­man rights, be it through law, yoga or bead­ing.

What: The Tool­box Start-up costs: R180 000 An­nual turnover: R220 000

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